‘I survived’: 60 years later, Leesburg Stockade Girls reflect on history
LEESBURG, Ga. (WALB) - Wednesday marked 60 years since the Leesburg Stockade Girls were released from the Lee County Stockade after being arrested for peacefully marching for freedom throughout the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.
“When we walked out and were really freed on Friday, September the 13th, 1963, it was like a new life had begun for us,” said Emmarene Streeter, one of the Leesburg Stockade Girls.
On July 16, 1963, over a dozen young girls, ranging from ages 10 to 15 years old, who had been marching for freedom in Americus were taken and locked up in the Lee County Stockade. The girls were never formally charged with anything. That’s when Marthenia Henry, another Leesburg Stockade Girl, realized their fight had transitioned from off the streets, to behind the steel bars of the white block building.
“We were wondering when we were going to be able to go home, and we also found out that our parents didn’t really know where we were, so that’s why it came up as they say ‘the stolen girls’,” Henry said. “As a young child, I was raised to stand up for equality, and we went through some horrendous things to make that stand.”
For the girls, a new challenge emerged when they realized what type of living conditions they had to endure.
“It was filthy. It was dirty. It was no functioning bathroom. No drinking water. The place was just filthy,” said Carol Seay, another Leesburg Stockade Girl. ”I survived with no type of sanitation facilities or anything. No bed to sleep on, sleeping on concrete floors in the smoldering sizzling summer.”
It wasn’t until three months later that the girls were finally released from their barricade with what they say was a newfound meaning in life.
“We went through some scary times, but it was all worth it because we have to take a stand and believe what is right,” Henry said.
Now on the 60th anniversary of their freedom, the stockade girls tell WALB they’re not done sharing their story.
“When we walked out and were really freed on Friday, September the 13th 1963, it was like a new life had begun for us,” Streeter said. “We gave up a lot. We went in as children, and we came out almost with a purpose and a claim of trying to get equality for everybody. We need to teach our young people and instill in them to fight for what is right, but do it in a mannerly order.”
Streeter said she plans to publish a book soon telling the story of the Stockade girls. Dr. Shirley Green-Reese, another stockade girl, is set to release a documentary about the historic story.
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